Here is a fun factoid: the average person passes gas from 14-23 times per day. But seriously, it doesn’t matter if you call it flatulence, farts or gas – it is embarrassing and uncomfortable.
New vegetarians and vegans complain about inordinate amounts of gas. Which, makes sense when you think about it. All of a sudden the body is flooded with large amounts of fiber; particularly things like beans, cabbage, kale and asparagus. Nailing down the exact cause gets a little tricky because what causes gas in one person may not cause it in someone else.
No matter what specifically causes it, the mechanism is the same. The intestinal tract is inundated with foods that do not digest easily and the result is gas. The enzymes and bacteria needed to digest and absorb certain carbohydrates are either in short supply, out of balance or entirely absent. The result is gas: belching, farting, bloating, abdominal discomfort and sometimes real pain.
The good news is that the body will adapt as you continue to eat the vegetables that cause the gas. Beans, however, may remain problematic. So what can you do?
First of all, try picking beans that are easier to digest. They include pinto beans, black beans, black-eyed peas and chickpeas (garbanzos).
Second, when you cook dried beans, be sure to soak them overnight before you start cooking them. One trick that works well is to add a teaspoon or two of Baking Soda to the soak water. I usually start soaking the beans after dinner. I immediately add baking soda to the water. About 3 hours later, just before bed, I drain the water and rinse the beans thoroughly. Then add new water and let them soak overnight.
It is really important to rinse the beans again before you cook them and to be sure to cook them in new, clean water. Some people add baking soda at the time they cook the beans, I do not. When cooking I usually add dill and/or epazote. Other additives reputed to work well are ginger, fennel and cumin. And there are those who swear that adding a potato to the pot is the answer.
Remember that there is a great product called Beano.It contains a particular sugar digesting enzyme – alpha-galactosidase. I used to buy a liquid form, but have not been able to find it recently so I just throw in a few tablets when I start cooking beans. I also take a couple of tablets before eating things like a big plate of red beans and rice.
Other things to consider include:
- If you have a problem you can take digestive enzymes after each meal
- Eat your food slowly and chew it completely
- Cut down (temporarily) on the amount of onions and garlic used in cooking the beans
- Drink A LOT of water
- Eat rice with the beans
- Take activated charcoal in capsule form
- If you get abdominal pain take some Gas-X
Eventually the worst of the problem passes!